Spatial pattern of attacks of the invasive woodwasp Sirex noctilio, at landscape and stand scales
Invasive insect pests are responsible for important damage to native and plantation forests, when population outbreaks occur. Understanding the spatial pattern of attacks by forest pest populations is essential to improve our understanding of insect population dynamics and to predicting attack risk by invasives or planning pest management strategies. The woodwasp Sirex noctilio is an invasive woodwasp that has become probably the most important pest of pine plantations in the Southern Hemisphere. Our aim was to study the spatial dynamics of S. noctilio populations in Southern Argentina. Specifically we describe: (1) the spatial patterns of S. noctilio outbreaks and their relation with environmental factors at a landscape scale; and (2) characterize the spatial pattern of attacked trees at the stand scale. We surveyed the spatial distribution of S. noctilio outbreaks in three pine plantation landscapes, and we assed potential associations with topographic variables, habitat characteristics, and distance to other outbreaks. We also looked at the spatial distribution of attacked trees in 20 stands with different levels of infestation, and assessed the relationship of attacks with stand composition and management.
We found that the spatial pattern of pine stands with S. noctilio outbreaks at the landscape scale is influenced mainly by host species presence, slope aspect, and distance to other outbreaks. At a stand scale, there is strong aggregation of attacked trees in stands with intermediate infestation levels, and the degree of attacks is influenced by host species and plantation management. We conclude that the pattern of S. noctilio damage at different spatial scales is influenced by a combination of both inherent population dynamics and the underlying patterns of environmental factors. Our results have important implications for the understanding and management of invasive insect outbreaks in forest systems.